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Jesuit who welcomed thousands into the Church, Fr Peter Quin, was a missionary at heart

Fr Peter Quin

Much loved: Toowong parish priest Fr Peter Quin shares a laugh with parishioners.

TOOWONG parish priest Fr Peter Quin has been remembered as Australia’s closest resemblance to Jesuit missionary St Francis Xavier following his death.

The Jesuit priest from Melbourne who spent the past 12 years as parish priest of St Ignatius’ Parish, Toowong, died in hospital on November 22.

An Australian Jesuit province health worker confirmed Fr Quin had suffered from Myelodysplastic syndrome, a “blood disorder which was pre-cancerous but required chemo which gradually weakened his system over the past year”.

According to parish staff, Fr Quin had been receiving extensive hospital treatment since February, including chemotherapy, blood transfusions and stem cell replacements at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.

He was admitted to the oncology unit before transferring into the palliative care ward where he died at 12.30pm on November 22, aged 86.

Toowong parish staff, close family and friends had been visiting Fr Quin until he died.

Australian Jesuit provincial Fr Brian McCoy said his brother Jesuit was Australia’s version of St Francis Xavier, whose feast day is the day after Fr Quin’s funeral on December 2.

“He’s probably the closest we’ve had to a Francis Xavier, in terms of energy and passion and availability,” Fr McCoy said.

Marriages and baptisms were especially important in Fr Quin’s priestly ministry, and according to Fr McCoy, he had married about 3000 couples and baptised or married about 15,000 people.

“He had this thing where they would gather as groups of couples,” Fr McCoy said. “I think that’s where his ministry was very strong.”

Toowong assistant parish priest Jesuit Father Gaetan Pereira called Fr Quin a man “who gave hope to the hopeless” especially people discerning marriage, the terminally ill and the unemployed.

“He always listened to people, and put some fire into their wings to think big,” Fr Pereira said.

He said Fr Quin considered golf “God’s playground”.

Parish administrator and finance manager Sandy Dunne had worked with Fr Quin in the team during his placement at Toowong and said he loved presiding at weddings and baptisms, strengthening the Catholic family unit in the Church community.

“For him it was a numbers game of drawing people into the Church,” Ms Dunne said.

After working with him for 12 years, Ms Dunne said Fr Quin’s energy for life and the Church never faded.

“He liked to be around people and with people,” she said.

“Fr Peter had his own charism.

“He was very much a doer, very physical and very active. He looked much younger than his years.”

Ms Dunne said Fr Quin loved single-malt whiskey, “fine red wine” and had “two loves off the job” – swimming in the surf and playing golf.

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Fr Peter Quin: “He’s probably the closest we’ve had to a Francis Xavier, in terms of energy and passion and availability.”

Peter Bernard Quin was born in Echuca, Victoria, in April of 1930.

His middle name honoured his father, Bernard Haselden Quin, a former medical officer who lived on Nauru, where Fr Quin grew up as a child.

In 1941 the family returned from Nauru to Australia to escape German invaders, but Fr Quin’s father volunteered to return to Nauru to serve as honorary captain attending to the medical needs of the Australia military battalions.

It was the last time he saw his family.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Australia withdrew from Nauru but Dr Quin requested to remain on the island to attend to patients.

The Japanese eventually invaded the tiny island nation and interned five Australians, including Dr Quin, in horrible conditions.

According to an historical overview by Dr Quin’s grandson Patrick Doyle in News Weekly, islander witnesses said the Japanese beheaded Dr Quin and four other Australians.

They also testified that Dr Quin “was close to starvation” and wore his rosary beads around his neck at his execution.

In 2014 Fr Quin accepted an award from the Australian Medical Association in recognition of his father’s service to the country, which brought about his tragic execution.

Unlike his son, Dr Quin never had a funeral and the family only found out about his execution two years after he died.

Fr Quin attended a Victorian school with the Jesuits at Xavier College, Kew, and entered the order in 1950, aged 20. He was ordained at priest on January 2, 1964, celebrating 60 years as a Jesuit in 2010.

Like most Jesuits, the early days of his priestly ministry concerned the education of young people, starting at St Ignatius’ College, South Australia, as a Year 5 teacher. He eventually went on to teach at St Louis School, Perth, before becoming the junior school headmaster in 1969.

Fr Quin was also headmaster and teacher at St Ignatius College, Riverview, for seven years before being asked to take on a parish in Hawthorn, Victoria.

He worked in parishes across Victoria and New South Wales before becoming parish priest at St Ignatius, Toowong, where he served until his death.

Fr Quin’s funeral will be held on Friday, December 2, at St Ignatius Parish, Toowong. Memorial services were held in Melbourne on November 29 at Xavier College and on November 30 at the North Sydney Parish where he had been parish priest.

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Vale: Fr Peter Bernard Quin.

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